Feb 18

Feb. 18.10: Pitchers and catchers report with issues.

Finally, pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie today, and with them, more than a few issues that comprise the 2010 New York Mets.

It seems like forever since the Mets were last in the playoffs, but consecutive collapses and last summer’s injury-riddled freefall have us wondering if fourth place in the NL East was an aberration or a realistic assessment.

Assuming for a moment David Wright’s goal is realistic, that the World Series is realistic, it won’t happen just by saying so. For the Mets to compete, never mind win it all, the following questions must be answered in the positive during spring training:

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: Wright is correct, this team has to use embarrassment as a motivator. There were too many games last year where the Mets just mailed it in, too many games where their heart wasn’t in it. This was also not a thinking team, whether it be on the bases, in the field or at the plate. The Mets gave away far too many outs on the field and at-bats at the plate.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already Carlos Beltran won’t be ready for the first month and set-up reliever Kelvim Escobar is behind with shoulder issues. The early signs are positive for Jose Reyes, Jeff Francoeur, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana, all of who are coming off surgery. Of course, they must pass the test under game conditions.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: How far the Mets go this season is dependant on their pitching, and all three represent significant concerns. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. Pelfrey took a step back last season; Perez, who has always been erratic, spent the offseason working out and the reports have been good; and Maine is in his second year since surgery.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Pat Misch and Nelson Figueroa are all in the mix. None represent givens. The fifth starter probably won’t matter until the end of April, but that still leaves five months where every fifth day a question takes the mound unless somebody steps forward.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The bullpen took the Mets deep into the 2006 playoffs, but played a significant role into the collapses of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Closer Francisco Rodriguez can be an adventure at times and there’s no dependable set-up man. Pedro Feliciano was run into the ground last summer, and other than him where are the consistent arms in situational roles.

Feb 17

Feb. 17.10: Wright speaks in PSL.

David Wright held court this afternoon in Port St. Lucie, and among other things said the Mets’ expectations are to win the NL East and the World Series. Well, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Wright.

Wright said offensively, he hopes to find something comfortable and stick with it, which translated should mean more home runs. Wright was in a mind funk all last season and only hit 10 homers.

Of all the things he said, I like this best: “I hope its not the underdog role that gets guys fired up, I hope its the embarrassment of last year.”

Embarrassment can be a powerful motivator.

Feb 09

Feb. 9.10: Mets need a full Reyes.

I’ve been looking at the Mets position players with this thought: Whose season might be the most important for them to reach contending status. That is, of course, under the assumption the rotation pitches well.

REYES: Mets need his spark.

REYES: Mets need his spark.


My first thought was David Wright, but I’m inclined to give the benefit of doubt and believe last season was an aberration, that he’ll be closer to normal this year. Then I thought Daniel Murphy, as with Carlos Beltran out at the start that the Mets would need an infusion of power someplace. But, Murphy is what he is, and he’s not – at least in this stage of his career – a power hitter.

Then it became obvious: The keys to the Mets offense has always been Jose Reyes. When he’s running, stealing bases, legging out triples and beating out bunts, and going into the hole for the ball, that’s when the Mets are at their best.

Of all the position players, he’s the one who needs to be at his best if the Mets are to prove last year was an injury-riddled fluke. If Reyes is on his game, the Mets go from being a listless team to a dangerous one.

The reports so far have been positive on his rebab, but he’s not tested them under baseball conditions. When he does, we might gain a greater insight as to where this season will go.

Pitchers and catchers less than two weeks.

Feb 06

Feb. 6.10: Random thoughts.

Just some things that have passed through my mind lately:

* If catcher is a position of mostly back-ups, I’d just as soon see what Josh Thole can do, maybe sooner than later.

* If first base is a platoon between Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis, I’d like to see what Murphy can do against left-handed pitching.

* David Wright ended last season stepping into the bucket after he was beaned. I hope he’s over that. Fear can quickly derail a career.

* I just wonder where Carlos Beltran would be had he had surgery in September.

* I’d like to see them sign John Smoltz for the bullpen, but he still wants to start. He’s worth a shot in either role. Hall of Famers deserve one more shot.

Feb 02

Feb. 2.10: Back in the saddle again.

Good morning folks. First off, I’d like to thank you for your well wishes yesterday. I should get back some of my test results today, but I’m feeling better this morning. So, again, thank you very much for you kindness.

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?


Previously, I’d listed concerns of the Mets heading into spring training. One such concern was whether David Wright would regain his home run stroke. By most standards, Wright had a miserable season in 2009, and it was that way long before he took a fastball to his helmet. Wright hit .307 with a career-low 10 homers and only 72 RBI.

Wright did himself in early when he admitted the dimensions of Citi Field were getting to him. Once that became public, pitchers had their way with him from a power standpoint and gave him absolutely nothing to hit.

Wright tinkered with his swing, but an altered swing stays with a hitter, even on the road and his power numbers paled in comparison to other seasons in production away from home, too. Wright is human, and he began to press, and with injuries mounting up – without Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – there was little protection in the order.

Wright has been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson, who should have done more to persuade his third baseman to not abandon the form that produced these numbers for a 162-game average: .309, 27 homers and 107 RBI.

The problem, Johnson dissected, was in waiting on the pitch, Wright waited too long. The ball would bear down on him and he couldn’t adjust. Say hello to 140 strikeouts. A career high. That Wright hit over .300 despite his high strikeout totals illustrated how unusual Wright’s season actually was.

Their off-season work has been concentrated on Wright attacking the ball more out front, being quick with his hands and driving the ball.

Which Wright will we see in 2010?

I’m willing to bet last season was an aberration and we’ll see numbers closer to his career averages rather than last year’s posting. I’ve seen how hard Wright works and believe he’s too good a hitter, too good an athlete, not to rebound.

Yes, I think Wright will be back in the saddle again.